It was in the midst of the Civil War – 1863, to be exact – that President Abraham Lincoln set aside a day of joyful consumption and peace for the war-torn American populous. And every year since, families nationwide gird themselves in gluttony, loosen the ties of their elastic waistbands, and relish a butter-filled feast amidst a soundtrack of family squabbling and overzealous Christmas music.
Not to mention, pumpkin-flavored everything.
So in the spirit of high cholesterol, 242 million sacrificed turkeys, and the probing questions of your grandparents shared across the dining room table, The Bare Square presents something that we here are most thankful for: people who play with their food. Presenting some of the finest examples of edible creativity, for those with appetite for art as insatiable as ours.
1. Food sculptor Jim Victor and wife Marie Pelton demonstrate that 900 pounds of butter is more than your cardiologist’s worst nightmare. Living legends in their hometown of Conshokocken, PA, chocolate and cheese are also oft-used ingredients in their repertoire of works. Not to mention the occasional bronze or terracotta Louis Armstrong bust. For more information on the Pennsylvania’s favorite butter artist, clickhere.
“Tribute to the Lunch Lady,” 2011. (Photo Credit: Jim Victor)
2. Going to meticulous measures to create his fully edible, vividly rendered “Foodscapes,” photographer Carl Wagner proves that you need look no further than your refrigerator for some fresh air the great outdoors. Or fresh vegetables, in this case. To scope out the rest of his surreally-scenic crudités, check out his website here.
Paradise found in the produce section. (Photo Credit: Carl Wagner)
3. In his sixteenth-century series of oil paintings, “The Four Seasons,” Mannerist painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo channeled his self-consciously surrealist sensibilities by re-envisioning the human head through means of harvest surplus and spoils. Later embraced by twentieth century surrealists like Dali and Breton, his works demonstrate some of the earliest examples of figurative abstraction. Learn more about the artist’s zucchini noses and garlic eyes here.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s “Autumn,” 1573. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
4. Half food-fight, half performance art-orgy, Kreëmart is a creative enterprise in the works since 2006, giving artists worldwide the opportunity to create and celebrate their favorite dessert food, because apparently, nothing says art like whipped cream on a canvas. Collaborating with artists from Marina Abramovic, Leandro Ehrlich, to Olaf Breuning, the next stop on traveling exhibition is Art Basel Miami 2011, hedonism and all. According to founder Raphael Castoriano, “Neither art nor dessert are necessary for survival but both further enhance the enjoyment of life.”
If we’re lucky, The Bare Square’s own goddess of all things art, Jennifer Wallace, will share her personal experience of Castoriano’s project when she goes to Art Basel Miami next week. To see for yourself how a cream puff can become an edible cadaver, click here. If you have the stomach for it, that is.
Art: It’s For Dessert. (Photo Credit: Refinery 29)
5. In her 2009 installation for the Performa 09 Biennale, art world club kid heiress Jennifer Rubell heaped over 2,000 pounds of barbecued pork ribs onto a picnic table, for the finger-licking fun of NYC’s art elite. The installation featured honey dripping from the ceiling and a tong-studded wall, and sought to re-imagine the biblical story of Genesis, ala the creation of Eve through the ribs of Adam. This was not the first time Rubell mass collective caloric intake – there was the 1,521 doughnuts, the 1,800 cones of cotton candy, and the 2,000 hard-boiled eggs. Sensing a theme? Click here to learn more.
Chow down on Rubell’s ribs, 2009. (Photo Credit: Flickr)
Had enough food for thought?
Well, when it comes to art, we always have room for seconds.
When you think art, you might think New York, Paris, and London. Some might even include Berlin on the shortlist of contemporary art epicenters. But, despite the West Coast’s thriving community of artists and institutions, California is in the midst of an uphill battle in registering a blip on the geographic radar of the urban art elite.
Case in point: The Getty Research Institute’s multi-part behemoth retrospective, “Pacific Standard Time,” glorifying postwar art that emerged on the West Coast, from David Hockney, Chris Burden, to Edward Kienholz, and everything in between. Despite millions of dollars in funding and an opening gala with over 1,500 artists and icons in attendance, the initiative is marked by a lackluster response within the international art community.
The Getty Institute's "Pacific Standard Time," stuck in the City of Angels. (Photo Credit: alalalalive)
Of the 60-plus exhibitions slated for display in California over the next twelve months, only a handful of the constituent shows seem to be traveling across state lines. Both the Tate in London and New York’s Whitney Museum have turned the other cheek. And Washington DC’s Smithsonian came close to sponsoring the traveling retrospectives, but rescinded their offer in an epic case of cold feet.
Talk about a massive snub of art historical proportions. According to Jori Finkel of the LA Times, “One sign of success for a museum exhibition is the willingness of other museums to host the show, bringing it to new audiences nationally or internationally.”
By this measure, California is the clear underdog.
According to The Getty Institute, “Pacific Standard Time” responds to “the need to locate, collect, document, and preserve the art historical record of this vibrant period” in post-war Southern Californian art. With exhibitions currently on display at The L.A. County Museum of Art, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Berkeley Art Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, only small network international institutions are interested in showcasing California. Only Denmark, Berlin, and Vancouver have joined the bandwagon.
According to Roberta Smith of The New York Times, “Today Los Angeles has museums and galleries galore, and generations of artistic talent to showcase.”
Sounds like a tree falling in the forest. A big tree.
For more information on “Pacific Standard Time” and the Getty Research Institute, click here.
If there is one thing to take away from the career of postmodern Pop Narcissus Jeff Koons, it is that the more the artist loves himself, the more critics tend to hate him. His upcoming installation at Frankfurt’s Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung – a 19th century villa-turned-museum dedicated to classical artifacts – was announced today, slated for June 2012.
As if one German art-historical institution was not enough, there will be another simultaneous exhibition of Koons’ paintings at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg. Typically geared towards 14th century German masterworks, this will be the third traditional venue banking on a uniquely Koons-ian contrast of new against old.
"A viewer might at first see irony in my work, but I see none at all. Irony causes too much critical contemplation," says Koons with Balloon Dog (1994-2000) at the Versailles Palace. (Photo credit: Tom McKee)
If his 2008 kitsch-filled retrospective at the Versailles palace in is any indication of what is to come, museum director Max Hollein would do well to amp up his defense, even if he continues to assert that, “It won’t be like Versailles.” Because apparently nothing gets the blood boiling like large-scale balloon animals against gold-leafed gildings.
Just ask the National Union of Writers of France, who demonstrated for a full fortnight outside the 17th century Louis XVI mansion during the installation of the artist’s work.
Or Robert Hughes, art critic for Time magazine and longtime sipper of the anti-Koons Haterade. According to Hughes, “Koons adds a depressing footnote to Pop Art with his self-promoting devotion to gloss and glitz.” Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times is of the same mind, denouncing Koon’s work as “one last, pathetic gasp of the sort of self-promoting hype and sensationalism that characterized the worst of the 1980s.”
Not even Koons would argue his tendency toward self-marketed ego inflation. In the early 1990s, he immortalized his marital conquest of Italian porn star, La Cicciolina, in his “Made In Heaven” series, depicting a varying array of the couple’s coital play. In 1999, he commissioned a song about himself for himself, on post-punk Momus’ album, Stars Forever. Then there is his self-portrait bust, with Koons as antiquated marbleized monarch, man-nipples blazing.
According to Koons, "I try to be a truthful artist and I try to show a level of courage. I enjoy that." (Photo Credit: Earlham College)
Apparently, it doesn’t even matter that his self-portrait is a generous depiction of the artist, to say the least. The bust sold for $7.5 million dollars at a 2008 auction.
The sycophantic adoration of millions. Teams of burly security guards. A personal maintenance staff, and a motion-sensor alarm system for undesired others that get too close. Then there’s the eight-figure life insurance policy. Not to mention the gilded frame and Plexi-glass sneeze-guard.
These are things you deserve.
We at The Bare Square are well aware, when it comes to the art establishment, there are plenty of reasons to harbor contempt towards inanimate objects. Though we do not advocate violence against art, we believe that all people are aesthetically intriguing, and come complete with the conceptual underpinnings worthy of curatorial analysis. You too can be art.
And plenty have tried to make their mark.
Be it for motives of envy or insanity, many an iconoclast have bore the brunt of international outrage, through vandalistic endeavors that hit the art world right where it hurts. Here are three of the most audacious acts of art desecration in modern history.
Because sometimes we all have to rage against the machine.
1. London’s Sh*t Artist Sprays All Over Malevich, 1997
On January 4, 1997, Russian-born performance artist Alex Brener sought to express his feelings about the “corruption and commercialism” of the art world. The objet d′anger: Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematisme (1920-27), at the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam. Armed with green spray paint and a plan, he hand-scrawled a dollar sign on the painting, in line with the anatomical positioning of Christ on the crucifix. According to Brener, “Malevich wanted to change to the world using art. But now he is just a commercial site. [And] I’m a poet,” the artist said in his defense to Dutch prosecutors. The Amsterdam Criminal Court was by no means swooned by Brener’s noble intentions, and sentenced the artist to ten months imprisonment and two years probation. Along with a two-year ban from the Stedelijk Museum galleries.
Alex Brener puts a price on art, in "dialogue" with Malevich. (Photo Credit: ArtCrimes)
But this was not nearly the artist’s first or last attempt at controversy. In 1994, he shat himself in front of a Van Gogh painting at the Fine Art Museum, Moscow. In 1995, he was arrested for masturbating on the diving board of a church swimming pool. And earlier in 2009, he was forcibly removed from the Gagosian Gallery in London for attempting yet another number-two in a public forum, among many other live-action installations involving corporeal fluid and excrement. For these reasons and more, ArtNet has affectionately dubbed Brener “London’s Shit Artist,” wreaking havoc at a European Gallery near you.
2. Criminal Slasher Returns To The Scene Of The Crime, 1997
A rough year for Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, just a few weeks after Brener’s vandalism of the Malevich masterwork, unknown Dutch realist Gerard Jan van Bladeren, took a razorblade to Barnett Newman’s Cathedra (1951), shredding the $12 million canvas in a matter of twenty seconds. According to Stedelijk Museum director Rudi Fuchs, “It changes your life.”
$300,000 later, the fully-restored version of Barnett Newman's Cathedra (1951). (Photo Credit: PortlandArt)
But this was not the slasher’s first hate crime against the art establishment – in 1986, he destroyed another of Newman’s abstract works, “Red, Yellow, and Blue” (1966-67) originally valued at $1.3 million dollars, causing nearly $300,000 worth of damage. Convinced that his tryst with the razorblade “added something” to the original work, van Bladeren describes his motives as such: “I don’t hate all art. I just hate abstract art.” Be it a personal vendetta against Barnett Newman, be it a moral dilemma with the Abstract Expressionist’s trademark “zips,” van Bladeren was sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison, and a $15,000 fine paid to the court. The result: a well-deserved re-appraisal of museum security, to say the least.
3. Australian Psychopath Wails On The Virgin Mother
Australian geologist Laszlo Toth proved that if you mess with Michelangelo, you mess with the world. On May 21, 1972, the then thirty-three year old – later deemed a “cultural terrorist” by mass media outlets – broke from the crowds of camera-toting tourists at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica, and stormed Michelangelo’s Vatican Pieta (circa 1555), depicting Jesus Christ cradled in the arms of the Virgin Mary.
Laszlo Toth slappin' the Virgin, 1972. (Photo Credit: Zippy 1300)
Armed with a sledgehammer, screaming “I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead,” he let slip fifteen blows upon the marbleized Madonna, taking out a chunk of her elbow, nose, and eyelid in the midst of his ravings.
Toth was later apprehended by Italian police, and had he been convicted, would have served up to nine years in prison. However, the court deemed him clinically insane, and sentenced him to two years in an Italian psychiatric hospital. Deported as an undesirable alien in 1975, he currently resides in Australia, living a quiet life as the second coming of Christ.
So the next time you find yourself at MoMa, blood boiling in front of a Breton, resist the urge to pee on the Mondrian. However justified in your feelings you might think yourself, an impending date with criminal court looms.
Many a famous artist arose from the ashes of World War I battlegrounds. Both surrealists Max Ernst and Paul Klee were members of the German army. Of less prominence is self-taught African American painter, Horace Pippin, the first black artist to achieve recognition for his work engaging his experience in the trenches. Often overlooked in the canon of twentieth-century American painters, his legacy is timely, and worthy of further examination.
While serving as a member of the 369th infantry in Europe, Pippin kept an illustrated journal of his experiences, most notably, taking a sniper shot to the right shoulder and being awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery in combat. His impetus to paint is rooted in this experience of physical trauma – he turned to art as means to strengthen the muscles of injured arm, and externalize lingering memories of the war that continued to haunt him throughout the 1930s.
His 1930 oil and mixed media relief, The End of War: Starting Home, shown below, reveals a hint of the pain he carried. In the foreground, a lone soldier falls to a background of a bomb-ridden forest, with pallid skies and smoke. Densely layered, with warfare accoutrements adorning a hand-tooled frame by the artist, the general impression speaks to the artist’s folk-art style, and absence of formal training. The combat scene evokes a sense of woeful innocence, emphasized by the craft-like quality of the Pippin’s technique.
“I asked God to help me, and he did so. And that is the way I came through that terrible and Hellish place. For the whole entire battlefield was hell, so it was no place for any human being to be,” says artist Horace Pippin of his wartime experience. (Photo credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art)
In many instances, the stuffs of an artist involve an inner fluidity, an innate ability to re-envision memories of pain and loss in a way that is cathartic for both the individual and the collective. Pippin epitomizes these qualities. According to the artist, his experience of war “brought the art out” of him,” offering him a reservoir of violence and destruction that would become the emotional materials with which he would create. His work is featured in such major institutions as MoMA, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery, and Tate Gallery, London.
Self Portrait, 1941. According to famed critic Alain Locke, Pippin is “a real and rare genius, combining folk quality with artistic maturity so uniquely as almost to defy classification.” (Photo Credit: Xiamen)
The subjective experience of war is often lost amidst the anonymity of battle dates and death tolls. Art remains our most visceral touchstone to the past.
In 1918, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” the US and the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia) had the Central Powers right where they wanted them – virtually defeated, with their backs against the wall of Western Front. With German enemy force’s ever-dwindling resources and manpower, a temporary ceasefire was called, bringing the “War to End All Wars” to its welcomed conclusion. Soldiers would be home for Christmas after all.
Though the official end of World War I did not come until June 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 “Armistice Day,” commemorating the concluding moment to the international conflict that took the lives of 53,402 American soldiers. Though the moniker would change in 1938, the sentiment would remain the same: “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service,” said Wilson to the United States Congress in 1919.
It is on days like this that we remember the brave individuals who lost their lives for the sake of courage and the greater good – be they artists, soldiers, or, like Horace Pippin, both. While you formulate your 11:11 wishes, and consider the day’s epic coincidence of numbers, consider this:
There are 950,400 veterans in New York State alone.
12.1% of them are unemployed.
23% of the homeless population are veterans.
The Bare Square wishes you a peaceful Veterans Day.